We love to review destination hotels and resorts, but let’s face it: roadside motels booked solely for the purpose of an overnight pit stop en route on a road trip are usually nothing to write home about. Plus, an average motel stay is now over $100 per night. In the last year or so, we’ve been thinking outside the box (or motel room) and booking cabin, yurt, or campground stays instead.
I know what you’re thinking: you don’t want to pack everything needed for a camping overnight during your road trip, right? And you’re not keen on the dirt and work involved, just for one night. But wait, we have a solution: campgrounds with cabins.
Many state parks and wildlife reserves have wonderful cabin or yurt options (check out this one right outside Yellowstone National Park), and most well-traveled interstates and highways now have KOA Kampgrounds en route. A number of years ago, I would not have considered staying at a KOA. But times truly have changed. We stayed at our first KOA in a decade two years ago, while traveling through Oregon to Mt. Hood in winter. We needed a low-cost, fun, and friendly place to stay the night, and a KOA cabin in Redmond fit the bill. Last week, we repeated the process, staying at a KOA cabin in Mountain Home, Idaho en route to Wyoming. Both of these cabins were listed as one of their standard options, which include electricity, heat, and beds for 4-6 people. They are not deluxe, and meals need to be cooked outside the cabin. Bathrooms are located in a different building close by.
For us, standard cabins work just fine. We usually have our own sleeping bags with us, and when we’re road tripping, we like to grab dinner out and eat a simple breakfast in our cabin that doesn’t require a kitchen. The Mountain Home and Redmond KOAs offered room to run around for the kids, a friendly community atmosphere, and the basic supplies we needed, like groceries, sunscreen, and bug spray in their stores. Some KOA locations aren’t anything special, but I’ve never experienced one that did not include a friendly, welcoming staff and clean amenities. The rate is about half that of a motel room.
But what if you don’t want to rough it?
Try a KOA Deluxe Kabin! On our same Wyoming road trip, we stayed at the Jackson Hole/Snake River KOA in Jackson, and upgraded to a cabin with two rooms, a bathroom, and a full kitchen. Our cabin was located right on the Snake River, and when we arrived, the kids could immediately go play while we unloaded. We could cook our own dinner (the kitchen includes everything but an oven, and there’s a great BBQ, too) and sit outside at night, watching the stars come out instead of being stuck in a small motel room.
At KOA Jackson Hole/Snake River, there’s guided river rafting on-site, and in late summer, when the Snake River is running less rapidly, families can rent inner tubes to float down the river right next to the campground. The tent sites are located right on the banks (try to get site #1 for the best creekside playing) and the deluxe cabins overlook the river on higher ground. You can also opt for a standard cabin at this location, of course. We loved the friendly staff, and the fun activities on-site for kids. For instance: if kids find one of the painted rocks on property, they can turn it in for free ice cream!
Deluxe cabins are as nice as you’d expect from an upscale rental home booking. Who knew? But be aware: these cabins can cost as much as, or more than, a motel room. It’s important to decide what your vacation goals are. If you’re booking primarily for budget reasons, opt for a standard cabin, and if you’re booking primarily for the outdoor experience instead of a motel experience, upgrade to a deluxe. Not all KOAs offer both, but you can get a good indication of the range of options by checking out the Jackson Hole camping cabin page.
What KOAs have you stayed in? Have your tried a cabin? We’d love your recommendations!